Top 10 Cultural Symbols of China

When mentioning China, what comes to mind? As a country with a history of more than 5,000 years, China is rich in civilization and culture. What best represents China? Here we list the top 10 cultural symbols of China.

1. Kungfu (Chinese Martial Arts)

Kungfu, often used in the West to refer to Chinese martial arts (Zhongguo Wushu), is part of traditional Chinese culture. When talking of kungfu, people most immediately think of Bruce Lee and his great accomplishments in boxing, swordplay, and skill with knives and sticks. With his superb kungfu popularized throughout the world, he became the embodiment of Chinese martial arts.

Top 10 Cultural Symbols of China - Kungfu

Shaolin Temple, located on Songshan Mountain in Henan Province, has had a far-reaching influence on Chinese martial arts. Shaolin Kungfu, famous for its power and energy, excellent skill and complicated systems, is the best under heaven.

2. Chinese Cuisine

As one of the “Three Grand Cuisines” in the world, Chinese cuisine is a brilliant facet of Chinese culture, which is proven by the fact that Chinese restaurants are found scattered everywhere throughout the world. Many foreign friends first learn about Chinese culture through the numerous Chinese restaurants found all over the world, and soon discern that China is a country with delicious cuisine.

Top 10 Cultural Symbols of China - Chinese Cuisine

It is widely acknowledged that from the Ming (1368-1644) and Qing (1616-1911) dynasties onwards, there arose “Eight Culinary Cuisines”, which are Shandong, Sichuan, Guangdong, Fujian, Jiangsu, Zhejiang, Hunan and Anhui cuisines. Among them, the best known and most influential are Cantonese cuisine, Shandong cuisine, Jiangsu cuisine (specifically Huaiyang cuisine) and Sichuan cuisine.

3. Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM)

As an integral part of Chinese culture, Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM) is a unique and comprehensive system distinctive from the Western medicine. Three theories are taken as the fundamental basis of TCM, which are the theory of yin and yang, Five Phases theory (metal, wood, water, fire and earth), and the theory of meridians (jingluo). In TCM, diagnosis includes four basic methods: observing, auscultating, inquiring, and pulse-palpating. TCM includes various forms of herbal medicine, acupuncture, massage, exercise (qigong), and dietary therapy.

Top 10 Cultural Symbols of China - Traditional Chinese Medicine

4. Chinese Characters

Chinese characters are among the most widely adopted writing systems, and are used by the most populous people in the world. The origins of Chinese characters can be traced to inscriptions on bones, tortoise shells and bronze ware, of which the earliest identifiable characters belonged to the Shang Dynasty (c. 1600 to 1046 BC). Besides recording Chinese civilization, it is also an art form – Chinese calligraphy.

Top 10 Cultural Symbols of China - Chinese Characters

5. Chinese Dragon

Dragon is generally used as the symbol of Chinese culture, and Chinese people often use the term “Descendants of the Dragon” as a sign of ethnic identity. The Chinese dragon is a legendary creature, and it is typically portrayed as long, scaled, serpentine creatures with four legs in Chinese art. Chinese dragons traditionally symbolize power, strength, and good luck, particularly control over water, rainfall, typhoons, and floods. Historically, dragon was the symbol of the emperor, and the dragon symbol was frequently used on emperor’s items, such as chairs and costumes.

Top 10 Cultural Symbols of China - Chinese Dragon

6. Great Wall of China

The Great Wall is a destination you must see when visiting China. There is an old saying that goes, “He who has never been to the Great Wall is not a true man.” In a broad sense, “the Great Wall” refers to all the walls of the different dynasties. The Great Wall of today is about 6,700 km long, starting from Shanhaiguan Pass in the east and ending at Jiayuguan Pass in the west. As one of the wonders of the world, the Great Wall is the longest man-made structure on earth, and it has preserved more than 2,000 years of Chinese history.

Top 10 Cultural Symbols of China - Great Wall of China

7. Porcelain

Porcelain can be referred to as “china” as China is the birthplace of it. Porcelain found its way to Europe in the 15th century, occupying an important position in the exchanges between China and other countries. Porcelain garnered a good reputation for China for its serene color, crystal paste, graceful designs, and ingenious forms. The most famous porcelain in China comes from Jingdezhen. With porcelain manufacturing starting here approximately 1,700 years ago, Jingdezhen is the Porcelain Capital of China. As thin as paper, as white as jade, as bright as a mirror and as sound as a bell – this is the motto of Jingdezhen’s porcelain.

Top 10 Cultural Symbols of China - Chinese Porcelain

8. Chinese Tea

Tea, originally produced in China about 4,000 years ago, is China’s national drink. It is the most favored drink of the Chinese people, and is closely related to the everyday life of ordinary people. Wherever Chinese go, the custom of drinking tea follows. Tea can be classified as green tea, oolong tea, red tea, black tea, yellow tea, and white tea. The differences among the many kinds of tea are based mainly on the roasting and fermentation of the tea leaves.

Top 10 Cultural Symbols of China - Chinese Tea

9. Peking Opera

The Peking Opera is China’s national opera, and is considered the quintessence of Chinese culture. The opera integrates singing, speaking, acting and fighting, to present the audience with unfolding stories, beautiful paintings, exquisite costumes, graceful gestures, martial arts and acrobatics. As the largest form of Chinese opera, it has many ‘firsts’ in Chinese dramas: the abundance of repertoires, the number of artists, opera troupes and spectators. Now, Peking opera mask, with the intriguing beauty of the color and design, is almost the symbol of China.

Top 10 Cultural Symbols of China - Peking Opera

10. Confucius

Confucius (551–479 BC), known in China as Kongzi, was born 2,500 years ago in Qufu, Shandong Province. As the founder of Confucianism, Confucius is a world-renowned great thinker, statesman and educationist, as well as an ancient sage to Chinese people. His words and life stories were recorded by his disciples and their students in The Analects (Lunyu). The philosophy of Confucius stresses individual morality including humaneness, righteousness, etiquette, wisdom and sincerity. Confucius’ principles have a broad basis in common Chinese tradition and belief.

Top 10 Cultural Symbols of China - Confucius

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